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Removing bitterness from cooked greens

first of all, that's a bad mix of greens as they all have different cooking times, collards taking the longest. growing up we either had mustard & turnip together (with spinach once in a while) or collards alone. it's hard to say definitively which is the culprit for the bitterness, however the mustards would be at the top of the list.

with that in mind some suggestions: try cooking them separately so that you can understand how each of them cook and taste. something i haven't seen offered as a suggestion for bitterness is baking soda, a pinch will help those mustards mellow out, although sugar and vinegar also can help. also, if you're using bagged greens, get rid of as many of the stems as possible, as they can add to bitterness as well.

Mar 31, 2012
misterchi in Home Cooking

pimento wood

wow...i've been making jerk chicken for about 13-14 years and have been looking for pimento wood with no success all this time...thanks!!!

Mar 15, 2012
misterchi in Chicago Area

Spare Ribs -- Low and Slow on a Charcoal Grill

good stuff here guys! my two cents are this:

i don't use charcoal at all. i use hickory chunks and add cherry and apple chips(soaked) and a fireplace firestarter that's tasteless and odorless and foolproof. all can be found at the local big box hardware and the firestarter is in the fireplace section. when you first start working with wood it requires a little more attention to the vents to find the proper heat/smoke combination, but once you figure out what works for your grill, it's pretty much set it & forget it. you may want to flip them once or twice but it shouldn't be necessary.

also, i tend to stay away from basting, especially since i use a dry rub. the cool thing about spare ribs vs baby backs is the higher fat content, so that helps keep them juicy over the long cooking process.

Feb 05, 2012
misterchi in Home Cooking

Parboiling Baby Back Ribs???

parboiling is a long-standing topic for debate and you'll find people who swear you should and people who say that you should be tortured if you do...all i can tell you is what i've seen and done.

living in the city of chicago, on the south side, there are rib joints everywhere. some better than others, but one common method of preparation: low and slow with smoke (i.e. no parboiling). i've also worked in several restaurants that feature ribs on the menu and they either bake or smoke or both but also, no parboiling.

here's the thing, while the idea of fall-off-the-bone ribs is a nice one, it's counter to what is to reasonably be expected with that cut of meat (whether baby back or spare ribs) unless you cook them long enough to break down the connective tissue completely. cooking anything for a long time can dry it out unless you cook it at a low temperature so that's why the term low & slow is used so often when it comes to ribs. parboiling is a shortcut to achieve that level of tenderness, and it comes with several drawbacks, one of which is the loss of flavor (if you don't like pork flavor, or "dirty taste" as someone called it, eat something else), but most folks don't notice because they put sauce on them. ribs are one of those foods that requires time to get it right and shortcuts, while acceptable in a pinch, shouldn't be standard practice.

now i hate food snobs as much, if not more than, anybody, but there are some things that people need to understand about cooking, and not just ribs.

rule #1-100: if it tastes good to you then it's ok by me
rule #101: just because it tastes good to you doesn't mean i have to like it

with that in mind, i cook ribs in a variety of ways depending on how much time and effort i have to put into them. none of them involve parboiling.

my favorite way is to slow smoke with hickory wood and a mixture of apple and cherry chips. anywhere from 4-6 hours depending on how many slabs i have on at one time. completely indirect heat, no charcoal at all.

if i have less time, i may smoke them for an hour or so then finish them in the oven (a couple restaurants i've worked in do it this way)

oven baked ribs go on a half sheet at 275 for a couple hours.

the great thing about oven ribs is that you can collect the fat and use it later (emeril is right: PORK FAT RULES!)

as far as seasoning/tenderizing, it depends on my mood, and also how much time i have. sometimes i brine in a cider vinegar/brown sugar mixture (anywhere from 1-4 hours), sometimes i go with only a dry rub (i let the rub sit on the ribs overnight if i can). once in in a while i jerk them (also as long as an overnight marinate, depending on how spicy i want the finished product). there are some great dry rub recipes out there so i won't bother with mine, and i love sweet baby ray's bbq sauce (although it's pretty thick).

one last thing...i actually prefer spare ribs to baby backs because they're meatier and are easier to cook because of the higher fat content. and the tips off spare ribs are awesome!

Feb 05, 2012
misterchi in Home Cooking

The Big Waste....waste of time.

i saw this show for the first time last night and found it pretty interesting. reading through the replies, it's good to see that people are educating themselves and each other about the amount of waste that goes on. i happen to work at a casino whose buffet wastes tons of food, literally. it's hard to watch at the end of the night when they roll out the garbage cans and dump perfectly edible food. we do donate quite a bit of time and product to local pantries and food banks but it doesn't make the pain of the daily dumping go completely away.

something else that we as consumers may or may not be aware of...not all "sub-standard" food, especially produce, is just dumped...there is a buyers hierarchy that exists far from the typical shoppers' eyes. the big chains and wholesalers get first dibs and pay a higher price, which is why the Jewels and Dominick's of the world (local chicago big chain grocers) have such lovely looking produce that is waxed and sprayed every 2 minutes...and also why you pay such a high price. from there, the product price goes down, as does the size of the store(s) buying it, until you get to the little corner grocery store that sells limes 25/$1. i happen to shop at these stores and you'd be suprised at the quality vs price that you can get compared to Whole Foods. i've literally filled the cargo area of my little suv with produce for less than $20.

now back to the show...i think that part of the reason there is so much waste is simply laziness on the part of the retailer and the fact that there would be a cost incurred for giving rather than tossing. every store/restaurant has a dumpster, sending it out full costs the same as sending it out empty, but packaging and shipping food to pantries and shelters costs time and money that usually hasn't been budgeted for. we do it regularly, on a volunteer basis, but we have corporate support and resources that make it easier. stores and restaurants these days are operating at very close margins and the reality is that when things are tight, giving is harder to do.

Jan 09, 2012
misterchi in Food Media & News

Is "Foodie" a Put-Down?

lol...in a world where there are truly hurtful things we call each other (and sometimes ourselves) regularly, being called a foodie is way down on my list. and gilliard61, please don't be offended but, while i understand your preference of the term "gourmand", it screams haughty pretentiousness at my midwestern sensibilities and southern roots. i love a sandwich that leaves a grease stain on the bag as much as i love foie gras, so foodie is fine by me.

one other thing to add to the mix is (my opinion) that food should be a vehicle that brings people together rather than become another in far too long a list of things that we use to classify and therefore divide one another. my grandmother wasn't a chef, she was a cook and she didn't know anything about vikings (she had little or no education) and sub-zero was the temperature in chicago during the winter...but her love of food was a way of her to project love into the world.

and to the person who believes that having dined at per se is somehow a rite of passage for someone who is passionate about food...puh-leeze. i work with some great cooks (that's right, i said cook, not chef) who eat, sleep and drink food and they've never even been to new york. a passion for something, especially food, is not directly related to the names you can drop or the places you can list on your gourmet resume. that is the very attitude that gives a term like "foodie" the same negative connotation as "yuppie"...do you notice the parallel? go have a sammich.

Jan 09, 2012
misterchi in Features

The Four Worst Restaurant Etiquette Gaffes

funny! i'm going to wait to read this helen person's credentials until after i've stopped laughing at her version of the (in booming echo voice) Four Worst Restaurant Etiquette Gaffes... having worked in almost every capacity in a restaurant including having managed a few, the one she listed first would only make the list if it were a party of 8 or more. everything else is just another table, but a large party requires setup and sometimes staffing considerations. if it's a reservation for 4 at 8pm on a saturday, i'm not gonna sweat it, you should if you're more than a minute late.

the byo thing is such a non-issue i don't know why she would even mention that, or a sommelier for that matter. the percentage of restaurants that allow byob and/or have sommeliers on duty is so small that who cares if somebody brings in a bottle of wine that they have to wait to drink at home?? something more relevant would be understanding what kind of restaurant you're going to. for example...might not be a good idea to take a vegetarian to a steakhouse, or someone who doesn't like spicy food to an indian restaurant. sure, the kitchen can make substitutions but they can't work miracles.

on that note, please complain. as your host, my job is to give you what you want...within reason. if i screwed it up, i want to fix it, and if i don't, i deserve to read about it in the local paper.

it also isn't (or shouldn't be) a problem if you are very particular about how you want your food...no this, extra that, put that on the side, can i substitute this instead of that... the only problem with that is that recipes are developed and tested and tweaked and show up on the menu with certain specific parameters for a reason. when you mess with that balance, it's not always going to come out the way the chef intended and now it becomes your responsibility, to a degree, whether or not the dish is going to be satisfactory. rather than remake an item, find something else or go home and cook for yourself.

kudos to the person who mentioned controlling the kids...on more than one occasion i've had to bite my lip to avoid having the guests see me beaming while little johnny is bawling because he fell and hit his brick head on the stone tile because his parents thought it was cute that he was running laps in the restaurant during the dinner rush. i didn't even offer to take him into the kitchen for a tour of our deep fryers.

patrons of restaurants don't really realize how fortunate they are that almost all restaurant workers consider themselves professionals and take pride in their work and their workplace. sometimes that's the only thing that keeps their food from being...mutilated, shall we say, before it arrives at the table. whistling is good for dogs, not your bartender or server. yes, you are dining out and deserve excellent service but the emancipation proclamation freed the slaves about 150 years ago. and i don't care how much money you have, make, intend on spending or setting on fire, obnoxious asshats will be asked to leave. it's my party and there's a one idiot maximum.

this from a person who's spent plenty of time serving and being served. i've found that it's just as important to be a good guest as it is to be a good host. when everybody remembers that, chances are everybody is going to have a good time.

Jan 09, 2012
misterchi in Features

Chipotle: We're Conflicted

i'm so fortunate to live in chicago and have the option to get authentic food rather than homogenous imitations. when i want mexican, or any other ethnic food for that matter, i'd rather stay at home and make my own than be subjected to chipotle and their ilk. i don't really understand the logic of going to eat mexican or even tex-mex if it tastes nothing like the real thing. i can remember my yuppie friends raving about this great new mexican place that i just HAD to try...i knew i was in the wrong place when they asked me if i wanted rice and black beans... seriously, black beans?

Jan 09, 2012
misterchi in Features

African food in Chicago

not sure what side of town you're on, but there are a few on the southside as well. off the top of my head, yassa on 75th street comes to mind, and there's another called sunugal. urbanspoon.com is a great resource for international food in and around the city.

Aug 02, 2010
misterchi in Chicago Area